25 exciting female graphic designers and illustrators to follow this International Women's Day
As we wake up to International Women's Day, a day that celebrates women's achievements and looks to make the world an equal place, we thought we'd champion 25 female designers and illustrators that are making an impact today.
Collaborating with our friends at Shillington, the original graphic design boot camp, we've highlighted some of Shillington's recent graduates from its six campuses around the world.
From London and Manchester to New York, Sydney and Melbourne, the following creatives have either just stepped onto the career ladder or have changed course to do something more of what they love. Join us as we take a closer look at these women and their recent work for brands, both large and small.
As today is International Women's Day – an important date in the calendar that celebrates women's achievements and seeks to make the world an equal place – we thought we'd champion 25 female graphic designers and illustrators that are making waves in the industry.
We've, of course, highlighted some of Shillington's recent graduates from our six campuses around the world – from London and Manchester to New York, Sydney and Melbourne. But you'll also see recommendations from elsewhere, including those who are just starting on their creative path to others who've switched careers to do something they love. Here, we'll take a closer look at these women and explore their recent projects for brands and companies worldwide.
1. Juliette van Rhyn
Juliette van Rhyn has designed printed textiles for fashion and interiors for the last decade and today works as a freelance print and graphic designer in London. A graduate of Shillington's London campus, she is driven by a love of colour and strives for a sense of tactility, playfulness and atmosphere in her designs.
2. Missy Dempsey
One of Shillington's Sydney teachers, Missy Dempsey is a multi-disciplinary creative focused on spreading joy and optimism. You'll certainly smile when you see Missy's cheerful work, which spans graphic design, illustration, animation and art direction. Here, we share Missy's work for Sydney's Mardi Gras Film Festival, an event that she's supported for over five years. This year's festival artwork invites you to have some fun and enjoy queer storytelling at its best.
3. Hélène Baum-Owoyele
Hélène Baum-Owoyele is an afropean illustrator based in Berlin. Originally a trained graphic designer, she enjoys creating colourful, vibrant images which draw inspiration from her multi-cultural background. With clients such as Tate and The New York Times, her watercolour and vector artworks have been used in various contexts, from the editorial to advertising, through children's books.
4. Louise Brady
A graduate of Shillington's Manchester campus, Louise Brady is a designer now based in Dublin, working at Zero-G, a brand and strategy studio whose clients include Vodafone, Trinity College Dublin and Amnesty International. Louise previously worked as an art director for film and TV and as a visual artist and illustrator – an experience which she says made her resilient. "I approach my work from a place of empathy. I always strive to forge a meaningful connection with an audience that informs them through design and leaves a lasting impression," she says.
5. Niamh Tulley
As a child, Niamh Tulley was always drawing. It was a full-time obsession that led to her studying Fine Art at the prestigious Camberwell College of Arts. But Niamh found herself working in a more corporate setting following graduation, working in events and communications for a hospitality brand. It was here that she became envious of her graphic design colleagues and spurred her to apply for a Shillington scholarship, which she won, and the rest is history. Today, the London graduate is working as an independent brand designer, doing what she loves.
6. Khadijah Abdul Nabi
Khadijah Abdul Nabi was a freelance designer in her hometown of Erbil, Iraq, but found it hard to gain the necessary skills. To address this, she packed her bags and spent three months studying graphic design at Shillington's London campus. Since graduating, Khadijah has moved back to Erbil, worked on Iraq's first business incubator, appeared on television, built a community of Iraqi female creatives, all while documenting her journey as a female designer in her home country on her YouTube channel.
7. Maaya Lad
One of Shillington's teachers for its online course, Maaya Lad is a creative designer whose inspiration stems from her Indian heritage – something apparent in her work, too. Using vibrant yet refreshing colours and geometric patterns, Maaya's work covers many different themes from culture and environment to the female experience and diversity.
8. Vanessa Alvarez
Vanesa Álvarez is a Spanish visual artist and muralist based in Brooklyn. She has a degree in Plastic Arts and Design and works with graphics, performing arts, fashion, poetry, and urban art. Álvarez has made large-scale murals in Spain and New York, photography and graphic exhibitions in art galleries in Spain, Portugal, and New York, and poetic actions in Mexico, too.
She also loves to work with people in art workshops and collaborative murals. Álvarez has published two illustrated books for children, and she is a co-director of the International Kerouac Festival of Poetry and Performance, which has been a platform for the exchange of artist between America and Europe for 10 years. In all her art and murals there is a search for equality, the empowerment of women, and creation as the future and union of the community.
9. Faride Mereb
We're big fans of Faride Mereb, the award-winning book designer, researcher and editor with over ten years of experience in design. Originally from Venezuela, she's currently based in New York City. "Having Caribbean and Middle eastern heritage and a profound love of books has deeply influenced my work, giving it a specific hybrid nature," she states on her website.
10. Oyinkan Karunwi
Oyinkan Karunwi developed an interest in design while studying law at university. She dedicated her free time to designing posters for parties and events whenever friends needed some help. Despite having a passion for creativity, she continued to work in law for three years as a business advisor in Nigeria. But there was always a creative itch where she wanted design to be more than just a side hustle. After learning about Shillington from a family friend, she decided to go to its New York campus. Since graduating from there, Oyinkan is back in Nigeria and has founded her studio, specialising in brand strategy. She hopes to contribute to the growing design community and positively impact creative literacy for upcoming Nigerian designers.
11. Majo Crespo
Majo Crespo is from Guatemala City and has a background in creative development, marketing and strategy. While on a trip to New York, she discovered Shillington and decided to enrol in its full-time course to boost her technical skills. Since then, she has been the co-founder and strategic designer at Facético; a design studio focused on helping companies launch products and services. She's also worked as the head of design and experience for Tecki, a Latin American start-up helping older people with using tech devices. She's now the founder of her studio, crafting identities and campaigns for brands worldwide.
12. Amanda Lobos
Crafting up technicolour illustrations for packaging designs and rainbow-coloured identities for various brands, Amanda Lobos is an artist and designer based in Brazil. She's currently a junior creative analyst at Time For Fun – a leading live entertainment company in South America – and is also freelancing on the side. She's finishing her design degree at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo. One to watch.
13. Yasmin Banks
Yasmin Banks is a talented creative based in Manchester who has been freelancing since she graduated with a graphic design degree from The University of Salford in 2019. On the side, she's the founder of Proper Talk, a platform that aims to amplify graduates' voices within the creative industry. We love her typographic-led style and use of colour.
14. Jillian Adel
Jillian Adel is an artist, activist, and designer currently living and working in Los Angeles. She believes that "the way we show up in our art is the way we show up in our communities and that we shouldn't have to compromise on either front".
Her current design practice focuses on movie and entertainment design (key art), editorial illustration, lettering, and social impact projects, with most recent clients including The Criterion Collection, Netflix, and The New York Times. She has spent time "in and around the worlds of typography, pole dance and sensual movement, storytelling, and sex-positive spaces," all of which inform the "weaves and wefts" of her commercial art, paintings, and most recently, ceramics, which can be seen on her Instagram.
15. Nneka Njoku
Born in Nigeria and based in New York City through Trinidad, Scotland and Minnesota, Nneka Njoku is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator who today runs her own studio in the Big Apple. Her recent work for publishing platform Legacy scooped an American Graphic Design Award in 2020. Nneka is a graduate of Shillington's New York campus.
16. Vanessa Low
Vanessa Low describes herself as an "all-round creative with a critical eye for visual communication and a passion for designing with colour and care". With a background in art theory and graphic design, she has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and designer for over a decade. Also known as Van, she's a graduate of Shillington's Sydney campus. "For me, art has the valuable potential to reveal alternate perspectives on life and to capture the human experience in new, intimate and insightful ways," Van tells us.
17. Carolyn Hawkins
Carolyn Hawkins is an artist living in Naarm, Melbourne in Australia, whose practice spans graphic design, printmaking, illustration, ceramics, writing, animation, and various musical projects. A graduate of Shillington's Melbourne campus, she's designed campaigns and identities for local brands and organisations. She has also scooped an Indigo Design Award for her work on Cô Cò Pavilion. One to add to your watch list.
18. Ping Ni
Ping Ni used to be a product manager for string instruments at Eastman Music Company before deciding to mix things up and seek a more creative career. After a "disastrous" semester of graphic design at college, she enrolled at Shillington's Melbourne campus. Since graduating, she now calls herself a "newly minted" graphic designer and has moved to Washington, DC, where she works on freelance projects, doing what she loves. It doesn't get better than that.
19. Cathy Sison
One of Shillington's teachers at its New York campus, Cathy Sison is a graphic designer, art director and calligrapher based in the Big Apple. A lover of design, type and photography, Kyashi – as she's also known – also curates words and positive affirmations via @kyashi_writes on Instagram.
20. Lizzie Curtis
Another Shillington teacher, this time from London, Lizzie Curtis calls herself a "versatile" designer, illustrator and maker with "bags of experience across the branding process", from the "big picture to the details". We love her work for Ruffer, an investment firm that she supported during her time as a senior designer at Sparks Studio with character animation by Emma Ehrling.
21. Sophy Hollington
Sophy Hollington is an illustrator and artist living in Brighton, UK. Her gorgeous work takes the form of relief prints, created using the lengthy process of lino-cutting. While on a personal note, she loves to explore themes from meteoric folklore to alchemical symbolism, and she's interested in "wrangling the most out-there ideas to make them tangible". Clients include The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
22. Harkiran Kalsi
Harkiran Kalsi, otherwise known as Harky, is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator based in London. She has worked for organisations and brands such as Comic Relief, BBC Children in Need, London Marathon Events, #Merky Books, Footlocker and NBA. As a lettering and mural artist, she has created murals for schools and companies across London and her work has also appeared across billboards highlighting issues around racism and inequality.
23. Carmela Caldart
Carmela Caldart is a Brazilian illustrator and GIF-maker based in Barcelona. Her work is often bold, colourful and lighthearted. But it also touches on issues she's passionate about and "making sure to be as diverse, inclusive, and accessible as possible," as she puts it. "Through my work, I strive to break down paradigms and stereotypes about bodies, portraying women who are confident, strong, present, badass, and who take up space."
24. Cindy Kang
Cindy Kang is an award-winning artist and illustrator based in Seoul, South Korea. Since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a BFA in Illustration, Cindy has been freelancing and working for clients such as Samsung and Slate. Her colourful illustrations are full of heart and are often inspired by her surroundings and emotional responses.
25. Maria Midttun
Maria Midttun is a Norwegian illustrator currently living and working in London. She regularly self-publishes zines and artist books and is also a visiting tutor on the Arts University Bournemouth illustration course. Follow her on Instagram where she shares her beautiful, delicate illustrations and collages, many of which you can buy.